There’s a sheer simplicity to the manner in which Jon Tiernan-Locke claimed overall victory in the Tour of the Mediterranean on Sunday. Lying third overall behind two sprinters, he just waited for the final climb of the race, then blasted away at the foot of it.
“A few people were starting to attack already but I didn’t really follow,” he told us after sharing a couple of bottles of bubbly with his Endura team mates. “I just went up the right side of the road on my own and then carried on.”
Despite their best efforts to chase, finishing behind him were renowned climbers Daniel Navarro, Stefano Garzelli and Nicki Sorensen.
The 27 year old’s straightforward ability on climbs is fast becoming his trademark. It was his gravity defying sorties at the Tour of Britain last year that set him apart from the rest of the field and prompted at least three WorldTour teams to lodge preliminary enquiries with the Rapha-Condor-Sharp squad he was then riding with.
His stage win on the opening day of the Tour of the Med last Thursday was another display of his uphill prowess.
“That wasn’t planned at all,” he recalled. “It was just after the team had done such awesome riding for me – literally riding alongside the FDJ train for 10km to keep me out of trouble – I thought I’d give it a little go on a little climb, mainly to make sure I didn’t lose any time before the final day.
“It was a big ring job and with about 3km of flat afterwards. I followed a move then the guy swung over. I still had 20 people on my wheel, then there were ten, then two, and then I was on my own!
“I pressed on and thought the worst case scenario is I’d get caught. I wasn’t going to get dropped from the bunch and lose time but I didn’t think it would turn out to be a stage win. I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line.”
With confidence in his climbing ability confirmed, the biggest complication coming into the decisive final stage was being in the right place when the race hit the final ascent.
“All the teams wanted to put at least one guy up the front, so we had to keep fighting,” he explained. “You’d keep getting swamped. It was quite dangerous: there was a lot of road futniture and people swerving. That was more what I was worried about before the stage [rather than the climb]. It all went to plan though. Every single guy on the team did an awesome job.”
“We knew the bottom part was steep,” added team sports director Julian Winn. “So we said to the rest of the team you’ve got to get Jon to the bottom part. Then we said to Jon it’s got to be balls to the wall. ‘Go flat out, ride your heart out’. And that’s what he did.”
The only other worry for the Devonian was there not being a finishing climb on the final stage at all.
Mont Faron is an iconic ascent for the Tour of the Med and one that Locke already had his eye on during Endura’s pre-season training camp in Mallorca. But when the snow swooped in and the famous climb above Toulon was put out of use, Locke saw the potential of overall victory possibly going with it.
“I thought they might finish it with a sprint and I’d end up losing [the overall] by a couple of seconds,” he said. “When I heard they were rerouting the stage up a similar climb to Mont Faron, but where there wasn’t as much snow, I was pleased.
“[The Col de Gardes] doesn’t have the same history as Mont Faron, but I think the result would have been the same.”
See more on Tiernan-Locke’s victory in this week’s Cycling Weekly